‘Tree power’ for East Midlands

Just one month after British Airways announced a plan to turn waste food into jet fuel, East Midlands Airport has found a novel way to generate power, whilst simultaneously reducing its carbon dioxide emissions. The Castle Donnington site plans to become the first airport in the UK to produce renewable energy from willow trees.

Otherwise known as biomass, energy derived from ‘forest residue,’ such as tree stumps and fallen branches, or from specially cultivated plantations, is becoming very popular in modern industry, especially as the environment continues to dominate global politics. Organic material is burned in a biomass boiler, and the energy produced is used to power everything from light bulbs to heavy machinery.

East Midlands has already planted its first few willow trees, but the farm is not expected to be ready for harvesting until 2013. The 26-acre site is located to the north of the airport, between the M1 motorway and the town of Castle Donnington. Bosses hope that their new project will reduce the airport’s CO2 emissions by 350 tonnes a year.

‘This is a landmark day for East Midlands Airport,’ Neil Robinson, sustainability chief at the site, said. ‘We are taking another important step towards our overall goal to make our ground operations carbon neutral by 2012.’ Mr. Robinson noted that the willow farm was just ‘one in a long line’ of eco-friendly projects yet to be unveiled.

East Midlands wants to use its new source of energy to heat the main terminal building, but critics are worried that the extra trees might encourage more birds to move into the airport’s largely rural surroundings. The site already employs ‘bird scarers’ to keep avian pests away from aeroplanes.

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